February 2013

Coming of age in the spotlight

By Teddy Wayne
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Strap on a pair of hi-top sneakers, take an Adderall with your orange juice and prepare yourself for a wild ride with Jonny Valentine, the pop sensation and tween hero of Teddy Wayne’s hilarious and heartbreaking second novel.

Wayne, whose debut was the Whiting Writers’ Award winner Kapitoil, has turned his attention to the high cost of stardom at a young age, following Jonny and his hard-partying manager-mother (a momager, if you will) during a pivotal tour across America. Jonny—who has genuine talent but is also a byproduct of marketing genius if there ever was one—doesn’t remember much about life before it included paparazzi, personal chefs, a bodyguard/best friend and all the designer threads he could possibly want. But this 11-year-old megastar has the simple desires of any preteen: to play his favorite video game, have his back scratched by his mother—and secretly search online for information about his absentee father.

Writing in the voice of a child star is challenging, but Wayne does so superbly. Jonny is a hybrid of naivete and cynicism, unsure of his place in Los Angeles (his new home base) or St. Louis (his original home). Whether he’s dealing with feelings for girls, searching for a father figure in the 20-something lead singer of his opening band or challenging rumors that the label is “this close” to dropping him, at the end of the day he just wants to be loved: by his crew, by his millions of fans and, most of all, by his mother.

An original, poignant and captivating coming-of-age story, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine not only examines our fascination with celebrities but also scrutinizes the boundaries of a tight-knit mother-son relationship. Does Jane Valentine really want what’s best for her son, or does she want him (and his money) all for herself? In an age dominated by Honey Boo-Boos and Disney pop princesses, this is a breathtakingly fresh novel about the dark side of show business.

Read an interview with Teddy Wayne for The Love Song of Jonny Valentine.

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